The Penn men’s tennis team’s biggest problem going into the Ivy League season is not a deficit of talent, but how to manage its surplus of talent.
Especially with the return of junior Eugen Brazdil.
Brazdil, Penn’s No. 1 singles player last spring, came back to the No. 60 Quakers for last Friday’s match against St. John’s after temporarily leaving the team. With the UCLA transfer back in the lineup, the Red and Blue’s chances to contend received a significant boost.
Regarding Brazdil’s return, coach Nik DeVore said, “The guys are excited because they know that he gives us a much better chance at winning the whole thing.”
Penn opens its Ivy season against No. 62 Princeton (7-6, 1-0) at Jadwin Gymnasium in Princeton, N.J. tomorrow.
“They are probably the number-one or number-two team in the Ivy League,” Brazdil said.
But the Quakers (10-1, 0-0 Ivy) are confident about the match.
“I’m sure [Princeton’s] not happy with Eugen back,” senior captain Hicham Laalej said.
During his break from the team, Brazdil hit a few times a week but did not practice intensively. According to DeVore, the lack of practice could be a problem.
Brazdil said in order to get back into the groove, he has worked on his conditioning.
Another issue that the team has to resolve is how Brazdil’s return will affect the rest of the lineup. As of now, he is slated to play No. 3 singles behind Laalej and freshman Ivan Turudic, but his spot is not set in stone.
“If Eugen starts to play well, there’s no reason why he couldn’t move up,” DeVore said. “All three of those guys are number-one caliber.”
The bottom of the singles lineup also remains to be determined. So far this season, junior Jason Lin, sophomore Jason Magnes and freshman Nikola Kocovic have been fairly interchangeable in the bottom three spots. With Brazdil’s return, however, only two can start.
“Jason Magnes and Lin and Nikola are all playing well, and they all have something different to offer,” DeVore said. “We are just going to go based off confidence. Whoever is playing confidently is who we’re going to depend on.”
While these changes to the singles lineup will certainly help the team, Brazdil believes that he will have just as big an impact on the doubles lineup.
“Our doubles teams are much better,” he said. “Now we have three stable doubles teams.”
The native of Slovakia will pair up with Laalej at No. 2 doubles for the Quakers. The duo played together this past fall and feel like they have good chemistry.
“We have enough experience together to read each other’s games,” Laalej said. “I know what he’s good at, and he knows what I’m good at.”
Another advantage for the pair is that since both are lefties, they can both play the forehand side.
The doubles teams will be particularly important this weekend against Princeton.
“They do very well in doubles, and we’ve done much better ourselves in doubles this year,” DeVore said. “I don’t want to say that the doubles is going to make or break us, but we need to make it very competitive.”
DeVore believes that the team is going to send a message to the Ivy League this weekend.
“We need to let them know we are going to be a really tough match and that we’re not going to go away without a victory.”
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